Borrowing and Union Negotiations Dominate Legislative Discussion

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

The Rockland County Legislature met on September 4, 2012 at 7 p.m. to discuss several items, including the borrowing of revenue anticipation notes, the upcoming ratification of a new labor contract, hearings to discuss amendments to the electrical code, and several miscellaneous law enforcement and emergency expenditures.

Referral 9473(c) authorizes the sale and issuance of $30 million in revenue anticipation notes, a short-term borrowing measure which will fund state-mandated programs until the state can reimburse the county. Though the motion passed unanimously, concerns were raised by County Legislator Patrick Moroney, who expressed disappointment that such a measure was necessary to accommodate Albany’s lengthy reimbursement process.

“It’s gone on year after year,” Moroney said. “We hear about all these good things. We hear about these headlines in the press and mandate reliefs, but they still haven’t paid us for the ones that are there.”

When given the opportunity to comment on additional matters, County Legislator Nancy Low-Hogan addressed the issue of the upcoming Civil Service Employee’s Association (CSEA) contract, which had been negotiated to an agreement between the CSEA and the executive branch. As of right now, the agreement is awaiting ratification by the CSEA, after which it will progress to the legislature for their approval.

Low-Hogan expressed concern that the agreement may contain objectionable items and that time would not be available to discuss these matters before the legislature’s ratification.

One potential issue is a possible financial shortfall resulting from contractual concessions to the union, which might creating a fiscal loss for the county. According to County Legislator Ilan Schoenberger, meetings of the Budget and Finance Committee will be held to discuss the pending agreement, including the issue of revenue allotted to union concessions and give-backs in the 2012 budget.

“If there is anyone here who objects to the contract or its terms and conditions, then you should vote their conscience,” Schoenberger said. “If that means that it goes down, then it goes down.”

Another future matter was addressed under Referral 2420, which scheduled two public hearings on the adoption of a law authorizing an electrical code enforcement program, an electrical inspector certification program, and several amendments to local laws pertaining to the licensing of master electricians.

In addition, the legislature approved several items related to law enforcement and emergency preparedness. Referral 8896 approves the reimbursement of the county by Contingency Management Consulting Group, LLC for school bus driver emergency evacuation training, while Referral 9361(b) approved the acceptance of a Public Health Emergency Preparedness Continuation Grant from the New York State Department of Health.

Law enforcement-related items included Referral 6760, which approves $18,100 in grant funds for the Aid To Defense Program, Referral 5327(a), which approves $5,000 in grant funds for the Rockland County Sheriff’s Computer Crime Unit’s participation in the New York/New Jersey Electronic Crimes Task Force, and Referral 5327(b), which approves an inter-municipal agreement between the county and the Village of Spring Valley for the village’s receipt of a $14,615 Byrne Justice Assistance Grant.

At the Budget and Finance Committee meeting of the Rockland County Legislature on August 27, several items were addressed. Among these items was the acceptance of a donation from Columbia University to assist in HIV research, acceptance of grant funds for additions to the Sheriff’s bomb-detecting unit, an agreement to provide funds for a Drug Market Intervention program in the Village of Haverstraw, and inter-municipal cooperation agreements regarding equipment for Suffern and Nyack-Grandview Police.

The HIV program, which was under Referral 8862, approved a $1,800 donation from Columbia University which will fund HIV-positive Rockland residents’ enrollment in Columbia’s Community Health Advisory and Information Network (C.H.A.I.N.).

According to the HIV Health & Human Services Planning Council of New York’s website, the C.H.A.I.N. Program is designed to collect data from HIV-positive Rockland, Westchester, and Putnam County residents on their needs and perspectives on health and social services.

Several items dealt with law-enforcement grants and agreements. Referral 9361 approved the acceptance of $50,000 in grant funds from the New York State Division of Homeland Security to fund a new canine unit, vehicle, and associated equipment for the Sheriff’s Explosive Detection Canine Team.

Referral 6704 approved an inter-municipal cooperation agreement of $5,000 between the County and the Town of Haverstraw to provide for the latter’s Drug Market Intervention Case Management Program. This program is designed to target and shut down known drug markets by establishing programs through which police can collaborate with both prosecutors and the general public.

Two additional items dealt specifically with police equipment. Item 5H of Referral 6704 was an inter-municipal cooperation agreement between Rockland County and the Village of Suffern Police Department which reimburses the latter for $61,630 in expenses related to the purchase of new surveillance equipment. Item 5I of Referral 6704 was another inter-municipal cooperation agreement, this time between Rockland County and the South Nyack-Grandview Police Department for the transfer of shared funds to purchase a live scan fingerprinting system.